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Key Account Management - Negotiating with Key Customers

By Dr. Sue Holt


Strategic negotiation is a fundamental competence for key account managers. Many key account managers still struggle to move away from negotiations where price becomes the focus to negotiations based on a value focus. We have identified a number of different sources of value and looked at how we can present these effectively to the customer or client in order to create joint value.

As with much of key account management, having successful negotiations with key customers is all about preparation and planning. Yet, too often, key account managers are either ill-prepared for the negotiation or are running with their own agenda. Rather than trying to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and looking at the possible outcomes from the customer’s perspective. This usually has the effect of bringing the conversation down to price.

So, concepts like, for example, Total Cost of Ownership, need to be understood by key account managers so they can get away from the price conversations and into the realms of having more strategic discussions. The ability to utilise these types of concepts are particularly important where key account managers have the opportunity to influence the decision-makers and senior influencers within the customer or client. 

Talking knowledgably about the impact you can have on the customer’s future strategies and goals changes the conversation to an equation where the value the customer sees is ultimately the impact they get minus the costs of ownership.

Ultimately, creating infinite value for your customer, results in key account managers having more effective conversations and negotiations with their customers.



Our work in this area is critical to achieving successful key account management programs for organisations looking to succeed at managing key account customers. For the past twenty years, Cranfield has pioneered the development of Key Account Management research in Europe through the KAM Best Practice Research Club, working with world leading businesses to adopt new frameworks and best practice to fully leverage key relationships and strategies. This new frontier knowledge is continually integrated into our Key Account Management Programme

Blog produced by:  Dr Sue Holt, visiting academic and programme director on Cranfield School of Management Key Account Management Programme. Also facilitates on the KAM Best Practice Research Club.

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Key Account Management Programme

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